Jun29: Hippy

James doesn’t draw the next protrait until the current one is published.  Here’s Hippy.

Hippy has been with us since Paul was born, but was rediscovered about three years ago.  He’s quite a celebrity among our stuffed animals.  The very notion of a furry hippo constitutes an advantage, I’m sure.

To yard work:  I’ve been cutting the lawn with the weed whipper lately.  My mower is awaiting a new bottom seal.  I managed to get the old one out, but the replacement’s in transit.  I have high hopes the mower will run very well once the new seal is in:)

Workouts:  I did manage three this past week, but my weight continues to climb.  I’m at 181lbs tonight.  My jeans still fit, though, so I’m not worried.  I confess I’ve been binging on cheese cake and potato chips lately.  Don’t worry:  I eat plenty of vegetables and fruits as well, not least the dandelion greens that continue to propagate in my yard.

Today I threw the football around the yard with my sons.  My younger one never liked doing it, but he’s grown all of a sudden and now he throws a perfect spiral.  Whether playing football or baseball, or practising handstands, I was out in the yard all afternoon.

For now, life is good.  Hopefully you are all finding the same.  Here’s Hippy.
stuffed hippo, Hippy

Please return soon. Cheers:)

Jun23: A portrait from James

This morning, out of the blue, James entered the kitchen with Hazel under his arm.  “I’m drawing Hazel,” he said, reaching for some paper.  “Let me get you a clean piece,” I said.  “It’ll scan better.”  Away we go.

I was excited when James brought Hazel – who is a stuffed koala, by the way – into the kitchen this morning to draw her.  Hazel was excited, too.

James’ drawings have considerably improved over the past couple of years.  His “new age” began last summer.  Not a technical drawer, James has the spirit of a true artist:  he draws his subjects to reflect his feelings toward them.

In our household, each stuffed animal is a distinct member of the family.  Hourly, daily, or weekly, the animals take turns being active or passive.

I love James’s drawing of Hazel. The lettering is a direction James assumed on his own. Seeing it, I told him how it increases the portrait’s meaning. Ironically, I have yet to learn to do so with my own portraits:)

Hazel, James's stuffed koala

Please drop by again soon:)

Jun20: Day with the kids

In a world of electronics, I continue to be academic and artistic.  I’m promoting the same values in my children, though I have to tread gently….

I’m home every day.  A day with the kids doesn’t mean “I get the kids”; rather, it means that they don’t leave.  Most days they do because of school; however, with the strike continuing here, they had the day off yesterday.  With my wife out working (as she always is nowadays), I had to keep them entertained.  What was I to do?

The kids have a video game system, but I decided they wouldn’t be playing it.  Instead, they would do creative, artistic things.  After breakfast, I mandated that we would each draw a portrait.  Each of my sons was provided a stuffed animal whose portrait he should draw.  I didn’t expect my kids to go for the idea, but with a little urging, they happily set to work. The portraits appear below.

I often wonder about the developmental benefit of drawing.  I know I didn’t do much of it as a kid.  At age 40, I had to struggle to learn how.  My first face took me four months; now, I draw one in about half an hour, often from memory.  The brain certainly does change as a result of drawing, so I think it’s a good activity – especially for kids.

Regarding drawing portraits of stuffed animals, I’ll quote Geroge Michael:  “Not everybody does it, but everybody should.”  While I (mainly) draw human faces, I find my children prefer stuffed animals or cartoon characters as subjects.  Then again, children are known to perceive more than adults can.

It’s now the 21st:  the first day of summer.  At quarter to ten pm, the temp outside is a chilly 12°C.  It feels like a pleasant autumn night.  We’re at dusk now; we won’t reach darkness for another half hour or so.  That’s how it is at 50 degrees latitude on the longest day of the year:)

Thanks for dropping by; I hope you come again soon.  Here are the two portraits of stuffed animals that my kids drew yesterday morning.

June18: Breathe out

With my busy season drawing to a close, I’m happy to be getting back to everyday life.

With all that’s happened the last few months, there’s no doubt that some neglect has happened.  I’ve missed a few workouts (but I did one today).  The old lawn mower I took apart in early May is still in pieces; I hope to find that part this weekend.  The gutters I missed cleaning at the end of March, but I started them last Friday.  I haven’t baked a fresh loaf of bread for a month.  When Father’s Day came, I was relieved; I didn’t have to run out last minute and get someone a present.

Hopefully the summer will be a little slower paced.  I love doing yard work, when I have time.  I even like doing house chores when I’m not in a hurry.  After a time of manic productivity, slower times are needed for maintenance to occur.

I’ve been drawing here and there, while talking to my wife about her courses and such.  I rarely draw from pictures any more; usually I do it from memory.  Here’s another dancer from the year end show I saw.

Please drop in again soon. Cheers:)

June14-15: Year-end hip-hop show

I never would have guessed my son would be in hip-hop – yet, here we are!  Yesterday I attended the year-end performance, with around 43 different routines of which he was in only one.  My congratulations to the organizers and trainers:  the show was magnificent.

Hip hop dance entered popular culture when I was around the age my sons are now.  Following disco, it was new and hard to define – except that it was totally different from what I’d seen before.  Doubtless, in the big American cities, it was much better understood.  I saw it on a few videos, which themselves were “new”.

I never received any dance training as a kid; I played piano instead.  When my eleven year old son joined hip-hop last fall, we didn’t know if he’d commit to it.  True, he did dance at home, sometimes for hours.

Well, at first, his interest seemed lukewarm.   A couple of times I went along; my younger son, my wife and I would relax in a room with plush couches and colourful walls while my older son had his dance class.  We could hear them working out the routine, but couldn’t see; their studio was a few doors down the hallway.

I loved hanging out in the lounge.  Dancers would come and go, paying us no attention; they’d practice their routines or talk about school and such.

Paul’s interest vibrated between “a little less” and “a little more” until sometime in the spring.  Eventually I was able to go along more often.  As the nights got warmer and  brighter, he’d come out for water, panting and sweating.  Sometimes his teacher would talk to us.  Paul, it seemed, was finding his rhythm.

Around a month ago, Paul tried out for next year’s competitive team (this year was recreational) and made it.  Away we go.

To all the dancers  in the year-end performance:  thank you for the amazing show.  Your professionalism was truly impressive.

Here’s a generic performer.

hip hop dancer

June 7/14: Update w/Longmire

Longmire, on A&E, centers around a small-town sheriff in Wyoming.  Wondering if it would be a predictable western-style drama, I was drawn to it anyway.  I don’t like to miss it.

Well, I moved forward with the yard chores today, cutting down most of the tall grass on the edges and also the bolted shoots in the lawn.  I also cut the weeds down in two of the “wild” areas of my yard.  Next, I dumped the cut weeds onto a weaker part of the lawn to attract the worms.  I didn’t get to everything, but the yard is a lot further ahead than it was this morning.  My allergic son is playing out there now, his hay fever much improved:)

I’m thinking about watering the lawn a bit this summer.  I didn’t do it much (if any) last summer.  However, I’m contemplating it for a weak part of the lawn in order to accelerate the absorption of the lime.  Once the lime is activated, I believe that area will grow much better.

There are so many dandelions on my property, I eat the greens whenever I’m out there.  I always rip off the flowers when they appear, so that my wife doesn’t notice them as much.  She doesn’t like the fact that I leave the dandelions, preferring I’d pull them out.  However, dandelion greens make up about a third of my vegetable intake from April to October.  They’re convenient to eat while I’m working.  One restriction:  I can’t eat them before social engagements, because they green up the teeth bigtime.

To Longmire: it’s a great show.  Sheriff Longmire (played by Robert Taylor) is the strong, silent type, but superbly believable.  He constantly criticizes his own actions and regrets how he’s “failed” people he cares about.  Yet, he is always having to act quickly as emergencies evolve, leading inevitably to unintentional damage.  Sheriff Longmire always puts others first, and everyone loves him for it.  He’s his own worst critic.

Supported by Henry (Lou Diamond Phillips), Deputy Branch Connally (Bailey Chase), and a few others, Longmire struggles to keep order in the lives of the residents of his county.  Ultimately, the show suggests an optimistic, wholesome point of view about people, even perhaps those who go astray.

Here’s Longmire. Surprisingly, my wife likes this drawing:)

June 6/14: Bernie Madoff

Rolling into June, it’s time for another post.  Bernie’s been on my mind ever since the news broke around ’08 or ’09.

How have you been?  The weather’s been summery here for weeks now.  The kids’ piano season ended with their recital last Sunday; they’re in summer swimming now at the outdoor pool.  School continues, but not for long.

The yard needs attention that I can’t give it right now.  My business is academic; this is a busy time of year.  I even have a lawn mower to fix when I get a chance to go find the part.  Pas aujourd’hui.  However, over the last couple of weeks, I have managed some mowing, some weeding, and even some liming.  With everything taking off so fast, I just can’t keep up.

I guess my older son has moved up into competitive dance starting this summer.  He sure wanted it, so I’m happy for him.

We still work around the demands of my wife’s college courses.  However, courses are good things, in my opinion:)

Bernie Madoff caught my attention when North America seemed to be going down the tubes back in ’08-’09.  Why he merited so much attention is a question I ask today, but I guess he made a good story.

Madoff started an investment firm in 1960 with money he’d earned lifeguarding and installing sprinklers.  His firm was a pioneer in at least a couple of different aspects.  According to him, the questionable activities did not begin until the early ’90s.  By ’99, there were doubts about the legitimacy of some of Madoff’s claims.  Possibly because he was well connected and trusted, many people preferred to give him the benefit of the doubt.  In the end, they probably didn’t help him much by doing so.

The phrase Too Good to be True (Arvedlund, ’09) has been related to the hopes of Madoff’s investors.  Obviously, such a comment makes sense.  However, there is a more philosophical point of view:  I’ve heard it estimated, from a fairly good source, that one in ten adults in North America need never work again in their lives.  Such people are called “independently wealthy.”  To a struggling member of the working class, being independently wealthy is probably “too good to be true.”  Yet, it is true, for some.

In the Old World, the acceptance that some people have, while others don’t, is also old.  Yet, in North America, there endures the ethic that anyone can be rich.  Indeed, some people enter life poor, but accomplish wealth.  From the wholesome perspective of the American dream, is anything “too good to be true?”

Here’s Bernie.
Bernie Madoff